Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

November 24, 2004

What I want in an XML editor

There is one thing that I find really irks me when editing XML (using nxml-mode in emacs; but the following applies to all the other editors I’ve used), and that is the inability to say “this document is part of this other document”, so validate it in conjunction with the parent. Without this feature, there’s a massive disincentive to break a large document up into multiple files, even though it is often otherwise an excellent idea. I guess though with the whole phasing out of DTDs, including other files via references will become a thing of the past.

Posted by jamie at 19:54+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

November 22, 2004

IPA Zounds 2.2 released

Really, this is just silly. I got caught out by PyGTK 2.4.0 accepting something, and PyGTK 2.4.1 (rightly) not. I took the opportunity, while correcting this, to add in handling of opening empty files.

Posted by jamie at 18:08+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

November 21, 2004

Tolkien’s trees

Verlyn Flieger in Taking the part of trees: eco-conflict in Middle-earth (in J.R.R. Tolkien and his literary resonances : Views of Middle-earth) points out that Tolkien does not avoid the inherent conflict between civilisation and nature in The Lord of the Rings. Further she argues that Tolkien is inconsistent in presenting the Hobbits (who cut down hundreds of trees of the Old Forest) as good and the Orcs (who cut down many trees in Fangorn) as evil. She rejects the role that motive might play in distinguishing between Hobbits and Orcs (from the point of view of the trees), and between Old Man Willow and Treebeard. However, this dismissal is premature, given that Flieger does not account for much of the evidence which bears on the matter, and which undermines her view.

Flieger places much emphasis on the fact that when the result is a dead tree, motive does not matter, and that Old Man Willow’s rotten heart and malice is justified, in the text, by the peril trees face from all civilisation. The failure of this argument lies in conflating cause with justification. Old Man Willow may have cause to be malicious, but he is not justified in being so, and this is made perfectly clear in the text. Tom Bombadil explains that in the Old Forest live

the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with malice.... [Great Willow’s] grey thirsty spirit drew power out of the earth and spread like fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till it had under its dominion nearly all of the trees of the Forest from the Hedge to the Downs.

(The fellowship of the Ring, In the House of Tom Bombadil)

To have pride, malice, power and dominion all referenced in the same passage provides a clear indication that the subject of such terms is close to the side of the Enemy. If that is insufficient, the following speeches by Treebeard should make the matter clear:

“When that happens to a tree, you find that some have bad hearts. Nothing to do with their wood: I do not mean that. Why, I knew some good old willows down the Entwash, gone long ago, alas! They were quite hollow, indeed they were falling all to pieces, but as quiet and sweet-spoken as a young leaf. And then there are some trees in the valleys under the mountains, sound as a bell, and bad right through. That sort of thing seems to spread. There used to be some very dangerous parts in this country. There are still some very black patches.”

“Like the Old Forest away to the north, do you mean?” asked Merry.

“Aye, aye, something like, but much worse. I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am. Still, we do what we can. We keep off strangers and the foolhardy; and we train and we teach, we walk and we weed.”

(The two towers, Treebeard)

”[W]e never are roused unless it is clear to us that our trees and our lives are in great danger. That has not happened in this Forest since the wars of Sauron and the Men of the Sea. It is the orc-work, the wanton hewing — rárum — without even the bad excuse of feeding the fires, that has so angered us; and the treachery of a neighbour, who should have helped us.“

(The two towers, Treebeard)

The Ents, even when they march, are angry, but they are not malicious — a fact which Legolas notes on entering Fangorn Forest (The two towers, The White Rider). And though the Rohirrim on occasion cut and burn trees from the forest, the Ents are only roused by events involving real evil. Even in the eyes of shepherds of the trees, then, there is a distinction to be made between Hobbits and Orcs. Furthermore the argument between Borlas and Saelon is contradicted within The Lord of the Rings — according to Quickbeam it is not entirely human-centred to say that it is worse to take a tree’s fruit to eat rather than for some other purpose not intrinsic to the fruit:

And these trees grew and grew, till the shadow of erach was like a green hall, and their red berries in the autumn were a burden, and a beauty and a wonder. Birds used to flock there. I like birds, even when they chatter; and the rowan has enough and to spare. But the birds became unfriendly and greedy and tore at the trees, and threw the fruit down and did not eat it. Then Orcs came with axes and cut down my trees.

(The two towers, Treebeard)

That is not, of course, to say that the killing of trees by Hobbits is seen as a good thing by either trees, Huorns, or Ents. However the conflict which leads to the destruction of trees is in the nature of Middle-earth, which is composed of loss, and Flieger is right to emphasise the mourning of that which is beautiful but doomed to pass. Tolkien makes clear that the proper response to this tragedy of the world is a certain sadness that leads neither to despair nor to hatred, both of which are paths of evil. That is true of Middle-earth as a whole, and is a significant moral message.

Posted by jamie at 14:09+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

November 20, 2004

How to Kill a Mockingbird

Okay, there are probably things funnier and stupider than this Flash book review of To kill a mockingbird, but I’m not sure I want to know about them.

Posted by jamie at 17:28+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

Topic map goodness

In the last week I have added entries into work’s MADS name authority file for Peter the prize-cat (a member, seemingly, of the Beaglehole family) and Felix the Cat. My job rules.

Of course, it’s not a given that there will end up being topic map entries for these two, but it might happen, and that would be cool — particularly if we could find a photograph of Peter.

Posted by jamie at 14:36+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

IPA Zounds 2.1 released

Oh yeah. I have just released version 2.1 of IPA Zounds. This fixes some data problems with the X-SAMPA to Unicode IPA converter, and adds in the ability to convert back the other way. It also has a command line option for this to be integrated into the actual sound change process.

This release is in response to a potential user whose speech program can’t cope with Unicode. Ironic, isn’t it, that a program which converts text to speech can’t figure out what IPA characters sound like. Surely, surely that is where you would start, when writing such a thing, so that you can have rules for how to convert the orthographic representation of each language into the IPA, and then have a single sound synthesis process based on that. Really, I don’t know what passes for thinking these days.

May this be the last release for a good long while! Not that I don’t want to fix any problems that might arise, but rather that I want it to not have any such problems. There is more to my life (and this blog in particular) than this one program!

Posted by jamie at 14:16+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

November 10, 2004

IPA Zounds 2.0 released

I have just released version 2.0 of IPA Zounds. This release has a new GUI, using PyGTK, and some back-end changes; the changelog has most of the details.

At this point, all I can say is “about time!”, and start working on the next project (a dictionary editor).

Posted by jamie at 20:04+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

November 04, 2004

From the Dhammapada

What we are is the result of what we have thought,
is built by our thoughts, is made up of our thoughts.
If one speaks or acts with an impure thought,
suffering follows one,
like the wheel of the cart follows the foot of the ox.

What we are is the result of what we have thought,
is built by our thoughts, is made up of our thoughts.
If one speaks or acts with a pure thought,
happiness follows one,
like a shadow that never leaves.

“They insulted me; they hurt me;
they defeated me; they cheated me.”
In those who harbor such thoughts,
hate will never cease.

“They insulted me; they hurt me;
they defeated me; they cheated me.”
In those who do not harbor such thoughts,
hate will cease.

For hate is never conquered by hate.
Hate is conquered by love.
This is an eternal law.
Many do not realize that we must all come to an end here;
but those who do realize this, end their quarrels at once.

Posted by jamie at 20:19+13:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink